Epilogue: The Woman From the Poem

I wrote last month about the woman from the poem. This is where I ended off:

We reconnected recently. She explained. I apologized. And I told her about the poem. And when I found it here on my Medium, I sent it to her.

I’m back on that stage, with one person in the audience. She’s still reading my performance.

And I’m waiting for her to walk out silently or talk to me after the show.

… and this is what happened. She responded. She loved the poem. We bonded over words and IMs. We shared music. We had pillow-talk, where I imagined her voice reading out her messages first thing in the morning. It escalated. Then, it ended. Because of her partner. Like last time, she disappeared.

I cried and grieved for days. And then it was over. Behind me.

Sharing a Poem with the Person You Wrote It For

Credit: PhotoAtelier (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/)

I wrote my poem Don’t Slay Me four years ago, in one sitting, with no editing or drafts.

Message me tonight
Tell me that you can’t do it
because I want to tell you
That there’s a riot going on in my heart

voices hoarse because of you
my heart sore because there’s no you
bringing peace to the disorder

I dream about moving hair away from your eyes
I want to look into them
and see where my place is in them

You told me to surrender
and I have
I have acquiesced to you, the impostor
You may come now into this old hardened castle
with rotten moats and dying doors

Don’t slay me unless you’re going to kiss me
Don’t end me unless you will fall into my arms to celebrate
Don’t smother me unless you will pour sex into my pores
Don’t bury me unless you carve your bed into my chest

I was in love with the woman for whom I wrote this poem, in a way that disarmed me and left me vulnerable, as if naked on stage and I had no plans to be on that stage.

There are a few strong strains of emotion in this poem that haven’t come up in my other work. The direct and open longing for someone, is not something I had expressed in a while. I thought that that type of quiet pleading was something I left behind with the adolescent poems from high school. But, this wasn’t adolescent. This was adult and this was direct, “don’t slay me/don’t end me/don’t bury me”.

Then, there is the direct mention of sex. I have a strained relationship with sex and sexuality. I talk about it in hushed tones and sing about it with bravado. That shows the tension, I suppose. But here, I say to her very openly, that sex is between us. Or, that’s what I want. Wanted. If anything, this poem is a step towards being sexual with someone else, to express a sexual desire.

Finally, there’s the call to action that perhaps is the product of the first two characteristics. Love me. Touch me. Be with me. Don’t slay me. Kiss me. Don’t kill me. That is intimacy and that is confidence, two things I haven’t allowed myself to have in relationships.

I met this woman, and our conversations developed into a thick cloud of desire and longing. We went on one date. And then it ended. She withdrew.

We reconnected recently. She explained. I apologized. And I told her about the poem. And when I found it here on my Medium, I sent it to her.

I’m back on that stage, with one person in the audience. She’s still reading my performance.

And I’m waiting for her to walk out silently or talk to me after the show.

Fret Not, My Heart

Thank you to all my readers who have been on here, while I have been inactive. It means a lot to me!

My heart is heavy with grief today. I revealed my feelings for a friend yesterday and she doesn’t feel the same way. I waited a long time – a year – to do this. Waiting didn’t make it easier, neither did revealing the feelings. There is some relief that it’s out in the open, but there is some gnawing sadness, holding onto its leg.

I’m glad I did this, that I conquered the fear and that I am honest with this friend.

But, my heart is heavy with grief. And it’s now going through all the memories and mind-pictures that it thought were signs of mutual attraction… and it’s realizing that they were just the signs of a strong, kind woman who is able to express her affection for a man.

Fret not, my heart. You will recover from this, stronger and healthier.

Fret not, my heart. I won’t be unfaithful to you and try to escape by rushing the process of grieving, or seeking another person to medicate the pain. We’ll get through this together as partners and we’ll be just fine.

This woman was different. I can tell by how much you’re hurting, my heart. But I can also tell how much you’ve grown in how you were yesterday. You stayed honest and present. You listened. You responded. You were honest. You are an honest heart now.

Fret not, my heart. This too shall pass.

Truly Beautiful Writing

Swedish author

I’m studying my sophmore year of high-school Swedish. My assignment due tomorrow is about Karin Boye‘s short story Min son blir inte snickare (“My son won’t become a carpenter”). These excerpts* are just truly beautiful: 

Samma stygn som en gång förr, bara mycket starkare och med en lite bitter giftverkan av hoppslöshet, gick genom hjärtat på honom.

The same suture from before, only sharper and dipped in a little poison of hopelessness, went through his heart.

Hans vaknande ungdom kom med ett nytt allvarsdigert medvetande om att det fanns något som hette framtid.

His burgeoning youth dawned on him with a new and overwhelming realization, that there was something called the future.

Han blev tung i bröstet av det där tjocka som kallas längtan.

His chest was filled with that smog called longing.

  • All translations my own.

Making Bella

taken 2005

I made a film yesterday and put it online. It’s called Bella, after my late maternal grandmother’s nickname.

Backstory

I have been sitting on this concept for the past ten years. I was denied a chance to say goodbye and see her before she slept in Christ. So, I have been wanting to make sense of all the memories, the final things left untold, and living life without her around.

Returning to Egypt to visit my family, has not been the same since she left. There’s this hole now in Cairo, shaped after her. I spent a few days there in 2012 in my grandparents’ apartment. It didn’t bring me closer to her, as I had imagined. I left feeling the loss more intensely. That’s grieving, I suppose.

The idea

A month ago, I stood out in my balcony here in Stockholm. I hadn’t really been out there since I moved in. And as the bustle from the road, the balcony, and the sky converged in a moment: I remembered Bella.

And then I wondered if I could make that film about her, but here in my balcony.

Concept

standing in the balcony, reminiscing over Bella and remembering her, me narrating, with some of my own scoring and using a part of this song by the Saudi Arabian artist Hussain al-Jasmy. This song is about loss and when I first heard it, it become forever married to the memory of my grandmother.

Production

I shot the footage this morning with my Canon EOS on a monopod. Autofocus, standard lens, that’s it. I didn’t want to be distracted by the technical execution. That will come later, I know.

It was an artistic challenge to see how I could both record enough shots so that it is enough for the narration and so that it’s not much of the same. I tried to use different angles, mimicked some panning, and played with shadows on the walls.

Initial Editing

I went through the footage and made clips. I threw down them quickly onto the sequence in Premiere Pro, as quickly as possible. Some thoughts and pictures came back to me from when I was shooting, so I followed their lead. I played through the rough cut a few times to see how it feels.

I brought up a text editor and started writing the narration as it played through the sequence. In a way, I approached this like a broadcast news story rather than a film – record first and then evince the story from the footage.

After I laid down the initial rough cut, I looked at the shots and see how they worked with the script. I tweaked the script in Evernote, as I decided on the final sequence of shots. To avoid too much time re-recording audio later, I remembered a trick that a friend taught me a long time ago: use text clips in your editing software to play with the rough cut and editing process. This really helped me think through the shots before I touched the mic.

Scoring and Narration

I recorded the audio with the M-Audio M-Track soundcard and SM-56 vocal microphone. Adobe Audition Pro CC is my choice for post-processing and production. I really developed my skills in sound editing after this project.

Final Editing

This was definitely the most involved editing project I’ve undertaken, in that I had 4 audio tracks and several video tracks. After laying down all the audio, I took out the placeholder text and tweaked the edit further.

I wanted to avoid tropes with the opening sequence, so I got the idea to break up the introductory song clip with a piece of narration. Thank you, shower! It worked.

Favorite Moments

  • The intro
  • The shot where the narration says, “When I was growing up…” It was just a simple way to portray growing up.
  • The photo I picked of Bella
  • The flashback audio impression of Bella’s voice. I did it in one take and it’s still haunting me.

Lessons Learned

  1. Storyboarding and planning. Using the placeholder texts in the sequence and going through multiple edits made the whole process straightforward and intuitive.
  2. Good audio makes a difference. I really see the value of good-quality, well-edited, solid audio. It increases the production value exponentially.
  3. Keep the shots simple and cheap. They tend to express what you really want to say, without getting lost in the execution.

What’s Next

I’m brainstorming and ruminating over a film about my late friend Nancy. Stay tuned.

 

Planted in Blue

Water filling my sight
Sitting planted in blue
of air and wet.

The water in my eyes
and the water in my being
and the water before me
finally embraced.